Most automakers have enough stock for big December promotions in what has become one of the best sales months of the year.
But they certainly aren't overstocked after torrid November U.S. light-vehicle sales cut into inventory.
November's 17.2 million seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate was the second highest since 2006. The pace picked up the final week as customers responded to Black Friday incentives.
As a result, the inventory increase between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1 was well below normal -- about 110,000 light vehicles compared with the 175,000 average over the previous 10 years. A year ago, inventory grew 280,000 units in November.
It's not a crisis. The industry had a 71-day supply on Dec. 1, down from 76 days on Nov. 1. That's four days below the average of the 10 previous years as automakers stock up for holiday sales.
Once an average sales month, December has become one of the highest volume months as automakers have boosted year-end incentives sharply since the recession. It was the second best sales month in 2011 and 2012 and topped all other months in 2010.
December is the last chance for underperforming brands to make up ground and for sales rivals to slug it out. U.S. consumers have been trained to expect big savings.
But most sales race competitors are reasonably stocked. In the luxury-brand race, BMW has a 39-day supply, and Mercedes-Benz, 46 days. Fighting for the No. 2 spot behind sales leader Ford, Toyota trails Chevrolet by about 15,000 sales after 11 months. Toyota and Scion have 53 days of stock, while Chevy has a 90-day supply.